Finding a job in Canada – How I secured one (and figured everything else out) on my own

Warning – This turned out to be a much longer post than anticipated. If you want to skip to my Top tips on securing a job in Canada, scroll to the bottom! 😀 


A handful of people have asked me how I went about getting a job, or rather secured one before getting to Canada. It all happened over a short period I guess,  but I would say it came down to research and persistence. When I started out with the idea of a working holiday I first looked to agencies who offered a ‘working holiday package’ where they basically take care of your visa, securing a job before you land and assist you with flights & accommodation. The main appeal of going with an agency is the guarantee of having a job as soon as you land (especially in a foreign country you’ve never been before and have no contacts in!). But of course this comes with a fee, and while some people say it’s worth it, others say it’s money down the drain.  I almost went ahead with it – A working holiday was new and exciting and I just wanted action!! But for what would essential cost about $1k, I wondered ‘Was this really worth it? Is this the route people take to do a working holiday in Canada?‘.  In the end, I secured a job on my own and would 100% recommend everyone do it this way, no matter how much time they’ve got on their hands. Below I write all about how I ended up getting a job on my own. 

GOING WITH AN AGENCY 

Back in October 2017, I enquired with The Working Holiday Club and scoured their entire website about the costs, programs, application process, FAQs, had a phone consultation and was subsequently emailed their brochure and promotional videos. I was really excited – a new adventure, new life goals, new country, new people! I didn’t know anyone in Canada so the fact that the program offered a social network, in-country support and a guaranteed job before I landed I was hooked. They were on their last 2 days of recruiting for the Winter season and only a handful of jobs were still available so I had to be pronto if I wanted an interview and get on board. During this time I was working as an Office Manager full-time and was planning to quit anyway so the timing was perfect! Within a month I’d start work in Canada for the Winter season. But instinctively it felt too rushed so I said I’d wait til the Summer season recruitment came around, that way I had a better chance of getting the type of job I wanted plus summer was so much more appealing than the cold!

The Summer program for Canada cost $999 and the inclusions sounded awesome: Free season lift pass, visa assistance, housing, first night accommodation, meet & greet parties, and a guaranteed job offer! Since I knew no-one in Canada and have never been to America, the support network and connecting with other people was an important perk for me and though $999 is a lot of money, I thought it could be worth it. 

While I waited for their Summer recruitment to begin next April, I researched. I looked up the resorts/ hotels they placed people in, I read reviews on trip advisor, read blogs, and discovered FB groups like ‘Aussies in Canada’ and ‘IEC working holiday forum’ where people shared ideas and advice on preparing for a working holiday. This was amazing. Slowly I found myself doing things that got me step-by-step toward starting a working holiday in Canada. 

DOING IT MYSELF 

Joining FB groups was the biggest help and motivator. I connected with so many others in the same boat and became part of a network of thousands who were in different stages of their working holiday. I discovered that it was possible to get a job after arriving – Of course it is! How could I be so small-minded to think I wouldn’t be able to figure it out on my own? I’ve always done that everywhere I travelled hadn’t I? It didn’t take me long to acquire knowledge about the visa application process. I wasted no time. On November 7th I applied to enter the pool of IEC applicants and a month later on December 19th, received the invitation to apply for a work permit. 

While I connected with people on the FB forums, I zeroed in on the Rockies as the place where working holidayers spent their working holiday. Banff, Jasper, Whistler, Lake Louise.. essentially Alberta; This was tourism central and the place to go for the typical working holiday. That is, if you wanted something not of the corporate life. I was after outdoor and adventure so this was the place I needed/wanted to go. My work permit was pretty much guaranteed to get approved so I started looking at places I wanted to work. There were two broad options. Actually three: 

  1. Retail – hmm did i want to go back to customer service? It could be something to have in the meantime, no long-term obligation. But I’d be dealing with tourists 24/7. 
  2. Restaurants/bars/cafes  – waitressing or bar staff: I want to run my own cafe one day and always imagined I’d be a kick-ass waitress. Plus tips are apparently pretty good!
  3. Hotels & Resorts – House keeping, reception, ground staff, bell person.. jobs anyone can learn how to do! 

Consideration – Accommodation is not the easiest to find in the Rockies. Being small towns with a limited population, there were more people living/working than there was accommodation available.  BUT there are jobs that offer accommodation with it. As recommended from people on FB, my best bet of doing a working holiday in the Rockies was to find a job that came with accommodation! 

HOW I SECURED A JOB 

Working in a hotel is actually a career aspiration of mine. Ever since I met Azalya in Bali who’s worked for Sheraton for 10 years in places around the world, I’ve been inspired to explore this industry. This wasn’t just going to be a working holiday job – It was a potential long term career. 

I wanted to work with Fairmont Hotels, one of the well-known hotel chains around the world. There were plenty other resorts & hotels in Alberta but Fairmont is part of a global network and I’m a sucker for anything ‘global’. There’s a page on their careers site dedicated to international candidates, showcasing the lifestyle, accommodation, work opportunities, and how to apply. I was hooked and driven to get a job at Fairmont! Around the same time I connected with an Aussie girl on FB who worked 2 years at the Post Hotel & Spa and encouraged me to apply. Post Hotel is part of the Relais & Chateau group of unique hotels and lodges around the world so again I was intrigued. I spent WEEKS tweaking my resume, researching the hotels and life in Lake Louise. Did  I want to find a corporate job in Vancouver? Or work in retail & hospitality in the mountains? If the latter, do I want to work in Whistler, Banff, Calgary, Jasper, or Lake Louise? They were all going to be tourist towns but I know I like somewhere a little quieter. 

It was now December of 2017 and I knew the summer season didn’t start til April so I still had time. But to secure a job, the earlier the better! I sent an email directly to the Post Hotel and got a response within 24 hours! I was expecting to wait maybe a week or so but they were quick. This was so much simpler than what I was used to in job hunting in Sydney, I was directly in contact with the hiring manager already. I set up a Skype interview for 3 weeks later in mid-Jan. YAY! 

Fairmont was less direct – It was an online application process just as expected for any international hotel chain. Except the jobs were specifically titled ‘Summer season’ and descriptions were pretty tailored for the working holidayer. How great! I applied for a position in the Fairmont Banff Springs as Spa Experience Receptionist and also Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise Front Desk Agent . I didn’t hear back for about a week, during which time I was travelling in NZ, but set up a phone interview anyway. This was more serious – I could tell the recruitment process of Fairmont was going to take a little more effort. 

My interview with Post Hotel went wonderfully. I spoke with the HR manager for a good hour and we discussed potential jobs suited to my skills set since they didn’t actually have any jobs posted. This actually felt better, like I was getting a job customised and I had the pick of the barrel. She didn’t hesitate to have me on board and later sent an offer of employment! That was WAY easier than I could’ve imagined!! Don’t need no agency! Kapoooowww!  I didn’t accept just yet though. I wanted Fairmont more and was stressing out about the phone interview. This was mainly because I was backpacking in NZ, moving locations every day and had to find a quiet place where I could focus and not be disturbed during the phone interview. I remember sitting in the car lakeside in Te Anau at 6.30am waiting for the call. There was a hiccup with timing but eventually the phone interview did happen and it was TOUGH! I was grilled with behavioural, technical, and cultural/personality questions. I blabbered and tried to keep my cool and confidence, but I made sure I also interviewed Fairmont. I think I did well, but the vibe and new information I gained from the phone interview made me rethink both work opportunities. 

In the end, Fairmont took too long to get back to me about a job offer and I was won over by Post Hotel. In fact, I accepted the job at Post Hotel not long after I was offered, but wanted to see what Fairmont could offer. It was now the end of January 2018. My work permit approval letter came, and I had secured a job on my own. *Giving myself a round of applause and doing a goofy dance with the ‘excited’ emoticon face*

MY TOP TIPS ON FINDING A JOB IN CANADA 

Now I haven’t exactly started my working holiday yet – in fact I’m still in sunny Sydney. But preparing for this working holiday independently is something I’m proud of and want to share with others. Below are my top tips, or rather best lessons, learned by not going through an agency and securing a job before arriving in Canada!

  • Use agencies as a resource. Talk to them and ask ANY question! They’re full of knowledge and are experienced working holidayers themselves so they could offer a lot of advice! Find out about the hotels they recruit for, the seasons, the pay rates, accommodation etc and use it to your advantage.
  • Join FB forums. SO HELPFUL!  No stupid questions and you’ll already become part of the working holiday community before you’re even in Canada! 
  • Consider the type of working holiday you want. Corporate lifestyle? Or do you want to be out in nature hiking on the weekends? Or do you like the restaurant/bar scene? Do you like to be away from crowds or need to live somewhere lively and hip-happening? And then:
  • Decide where you want to work. 
  • Don’t be afraid to contact recruiters. Canada is a get-to-the-point crowd when it comes to job hunting. Even if there’s no jobs advertised where you want to work, just get in touch! On this note: 
  • Tailor your resume. Canada has a different CV format and you’ll want to bother changing yours if you want the best shot of securing a job. Finally, 
  • Be persistent. No one’s gonna get that job for you! It’s all a learning process and you’re acquiring knowledge no matter what the outcome. It’s a win-win 🙂 

So that’s my story on how I was able to secure a job on my own and save $1000 by not going with an agency. I didn’t need any assistance applying for a visa and learned so much more in the process of information gathering, plus connected with a bunch of people who are currently in or are also starting their working holiday in summer. I still won’t know a soul in Canada when I arrive, but at least now I’ve got connections! 

Work permit – Tick! 

Job – Tick! 

Time to book my flight! ➜➜ ➜ Read my post on it here! 

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